I wanted to give you an update on my visit with the doctor last Monday as well as just a few miscellaneous ramblings about life in general.
The visit with the doctor on went about as expected. The tumors in the liver are indeed showing some signs of growth and therefore the doc recommends we go back on chemo. This was not unexpected so neither Lynette nor I are particularly down about this. I think the kids are, but Lynette and I were expecting this so it didn't come as a shock.
I'm actually in very good spirits these days. I am feeling good, the best I have felt in a year. I feel like God is giving me a physical "time of refreshing" in just letting me go through these days feeling good - I had forgotten what that was like. As to details on my physical condition I actually still wake up every morning in a good deal of pain - more of a deep achy feeling than sharp pains. My hands and feet are the worst. So I get up and take some pain medicine and I also am taking some new medicine that hopefully attacks the neurological symptoms themselves. I usually have to lay back down for a bit or just get up and eat breakfast and kind of sit still and ease into the day, but after about an hour or so the medicine kicks in and I feel great. And as long as I take the medicine at the proper times I'm able to go the rest of the day feeling very good. I understand that this sounds a bit contradictory in saying I wake up in pain but am feeling good. But it used to be that I would wake up in pain and then feel like crap the rest of the day. Now, the fact that I can usually go for 10-12 hours in a day with the aches and pains being managed and feeling good is a tremendous blessing.I liken myself to an old car in winter that's cranky and hard to start but once I make it out of the driveway and get going down the road I get warmed up and can motor on pretty good.
As to those miscellaneous ramblings I mentioned at the top of the post - we've had several things on our minds over the last few months that we wanted to address and were able to do so with the doc and it went very well.
I may have mentioned in the past that I have not been at all happy with my experiences with the medical industry. Our first doc was certainly competent but Lynette and I often felt like he was patronizing us and that we were annoying with silly little questions about cancer. We then went to Hopkins where we know the treatments they offer are state of the art, Hopkins is the #2 cancer hospital in America according to U.S. News and World Reports. But at Hopkins we have felt like cogs in a gigantic machine, it has seemed all too impersonal to us.
So we went loaded with questions for the doc this time mainly for the purpose of gaining some peace of mind about a few things.
One of the things we wanted peace of mind on was on why they keep telling us that they can't do any further surgery. I understand that I have tumors in several places, but I was under the impression that the ones in the liver are the most troublesome. So I've always wondered why they keep saying they can't do surgery or one of the other state of the art liver directed therapies. Granted, I understand this won't cure the cancer but I was thinking that if the liver tumors are the most lethal wouldn't some kind of direct intervention there give me a better shot of living longer.
With that I wanted to go ahead and be blount and ask the doctor how it is that this kind of cancer kills a person. The doc said that the problem with metastatic disease is that there are cancer cells all over the body and there is no one single path that metastatic cancers follow. In other words, the cancer can be lethal by causing liver failure, but it also could be something in the lungs and it could be something in any number of places in the body. So there is just no way to say that surgery on the liver will be the thing to do. Plus, surgery and these other treatments are toxic in and of themselves and could introduce new problems.
So with all of that I now feel like I understand better what is going on and Lynette does also. This doesn't change anything but just knowing all of this does help in the peace of mind department.
We also talked a good deal about the goals of chemotherapy. Chemo is a palliative treatment, not a cure. In other words, chemo is intended to extend life, but it doesn't cure cancer. So there is a legitimate question as to whether I should continue with chemo and what value it has, if any.
Playing into all of this is recent research on the effectiveness of cancer treatments in general. Gina Kolata is doing a series in the New York Times called "The Forty Years War," examining the effectiveness of cancer treatments. The news is not encouraging. If you follow her series you will see that in 1971 President Nixon began the war against cancer in 1971 with the goal of curing cancer by 1976. Needless to say, cancer wasn't cured by 1976 and progress has been painfully slow. The sad truth is, after forty years not much progress has been made, and that goes for pretty much all treatments.
Couple this with the publication of SuperFreakonomics, the sequel to Freakonomics. In that book they basically point out that chemotherapy has been largely unsuccessful, so they question why doctors continue to prescribe it. Yes, it has been found effective with some cancers, like leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkins and testicular (which is what Lance Armstrong had) but not in many others.
So, I wanted to discuss the value of chemo for me. We have decided to continue with it. We know it won't cure the cancer, and maybe that is what the SuperFreakonomics guys were measuring success by, I don't know, I haven't read the book yet. But we are satisfied that it probably can prolong my life. In other words, as a cure, chemotherapy is probably a failure, at least in my case. But as a palliative it has some value.
I realize that advocates of "complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) would see this differently. I know that some of you who are concerned about me have suggested some CAM treatments and I also realize that CAM is very popular on the internet and in the media. I am not medically qualified to speak on the veracity of either traditional medicine or CAM but I have done enough homework to cause me to trust traditional medicine over CAM in general. Whenever CAM advocates suggest some variation on the theme of "eat better and get more exercise" I am on board. But too many CAM advocates cross the line into offering medical advice, and so I have to evaluate those treatments using the same kinds of judgments I would use in evaluating conventional medicine.
I put that last paragraph in there because it seems that pretty much every week I am informed of a new CAM cure for cancer. Many folks offer these as food for thought but some do so with a great deal of conviction and sense of urgency. And I have seen the exasperation on the faces and heard it in the voices of many who are dumbfounded at how cavalier I am in rejecting their surefire cures for my cancer. Their looks and sounds say "can't you see I'm here to save your life . . . ? ? ?
I may do a post at some point on my views of CAM. But for now I want all of you who are concerned about me to rest assured that I still have a modicum of intelligence left (I know some of you would debate that) and have done more investigation on these matters than you realize and am not doing anything blindly.
The good news is that my times are in God's hands. My hope is in Him not doctors or CAM advocates. I knew a doctor once who said that doctors treat but God heals. We're going to make the best decisions we can with regard to treatment and leave the healing to Him.
As always, thank you again for your prayers.
My old buddy Adrian Warnock and I are talking about doing a video together where we'll talk about these subjects as well as divine healing, so hopefully we'll have that ready to go in a few days.